No. 9: Initiative puts iPads in hands of every GCHS student

12/20/2012

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories of 2012.

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories of 2012.

BY RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

Not only did students and staff get to break in a new high school in Garden City in 2012, but they also got to try out a new technology initiative, as well.

In September, each student at GCHS was equipped with his or her own iPad as a part of the 1-to-1 iPad initiative. The decision to implement the technology initiative is No. 9 on The Telegram's list of top 10 news stories for 2012.

The device has changed the way students learn, teachers instruct and the way in which students and teachers interact.

The USD 457 Board of Education approved the 1-to-1 iPad initiative in April by a 5-2 vote.

The initiative became possible when the the $92.5 million project to build the new high school came $2,060,000 under budget after the board approved several top priority items, including adding money to the budget for converting Abe Hubert Middle School into Abe Hubert Elementary School and converting the former high school into Horace J. Good Middle School. The board also approved new technology at the high school and installing electrical wiring and fiber on the high school football field.

About $600,000 of that leftover money went toward finishing the stadium at the new high school, after action taken at a March board meeting. Before the school board put the iPad initiative to a vote, district technologists researched implementation practices from different schools. Last fall, several board members and district staff visited Apple Headquarters in California for research, information and demonstrations on the iPad.

In order to block certain content and keep students on appropriate sites, technology officials have added features to the devices. Under the school's iPad policy, students use the browser Lightspeed, which automatically blocks restricted sites.

Students also have a list of blacklisted apps. Those apps are blocked due to using too much bandwidth, or because of content, according to Layne Schiffelbien, instructional technology coordinator.

"All of the apps they can use are for 17 years or younger," she said.

Rene Scott, associate principal in the Academy of Trade and Health Science, was part of the pilot group for iPads. She said most of the teachers she oversees in the Academy of Trade and Health Science Academy at GCHS are using the iPads. Scott spoke earlier this year about some of the restrictions being rigid for students and teachers.

"This is something new. We have to have control to start with. It has to start off tight, then can loosen up as students know expectations. It's just like discipline," she said.

Scott said she did see the positives of the iPad, such as more students engaged and taking ownership in their learning. One student in her academy downloaded the GarageBand app at home, wrote a song and recorded it on his own.

"That's writing, reading and creativity," she said.

Scott also said students who are sick are making up more assignments because they can communicate better through email and receive assignments electronically.

"More assignments are being turned in from absent students," she said.

Scott said that with anything new, there are issues and obstacles.

Some teachers were hesitant about using the iPads, but most are trying, Scott said.

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